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Burland, A. (1992). Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation: By Leonard Shengold. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1989, 342 pp., $35.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:941-944.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:941-944

Soul Murder: The Effects of Childhood Abuse and Deprivation: By Leonard Shengold. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1989, 342 pp., $35.00.

Review by:
Alexis Burland, M.D.

In this volume, Dr. Shengold has gathered together, reworked and expanded his series of articles dating back a quarter of a century on the subject of the effects of childhood abuse and deprivation. The expression "soul murder" will be familiar to those who have followed with interest Shengold's articles; it is, indeed, an expression of great melodramatic coloration, and sets the tone for the writing style throughout this volume. The term was used, of course, by the paranoic D. P. Schreber, familiar from Freud's analysis of his Memoirs; but Shengold also found the term used by P. J. A. von Feuerbach, a jurist and scholar, in describing Kaspar Hauser, a young man found wandering the streets of Nuremberg in the early eighteenth century after spending the first 20 years of his life locked in a cellar (some readers may recall Werner Herzog's 1974 film on this subject). Of the term, Dr. Shengold writes (p. 2): "Soul murder is neither a diagnosis nor a condition. It is a dramatic term for circumstances that eventuate in a crime—the deliberate attempt to eradicate or compromise the separate identity of another person." He goes on: "Sexual abuse, emotional deprivation, physical and mental torture can eventuate in soul murder… Lesser effects ensue from intermittent parental cruelty and indifference." The victims are usually children, as their dependency "makes possible tyranny"; victims of brainwashing are also susceptible because of the enforced bondage. In terms of the dynamics involved, he states: "Child abuse is a consequence of our need for dependence and our innate sadism and masochism, and it enhances that sadism and masochism in its child victim" (p.

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